Suwannee River FAQs      
 
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Q.    What makes the Suwannee so special?
A.   
This is my opinion. (1) Much of this scenic river (mostly the upper part) is still 'almost' as pristine as it was 100 years ago. On the upper half you can travel for miles and miles and hardly see or hear civilization.  You will occasionally see a house but if so they are generally set far enough back you have to look hard to see them.  The wildlife and the unbelievable silence of this river make it delightful to travel. All you hear is the wind in the trees and the birds singing.


       

The above photos sent in by Ray Mulkey of Ocala, Florida

 (However, from Branford to the Gulf you will see lots of houses)  (2)  It is one of the easiest rivers you will ever experience. The current moves between 2.5 and 3 MPH. (a little more at high water - less at low water) All one need do is keep it straight and the river will do the work for you. (unless you are one of  those who feel they must break all speed records)  (3) Since it is such a long river, you can tailor your trip to the amount of time you can afford to spend. There are numerous put-in and take-out points all along the river. (4)  The scenery is spectacular. Especially the run from White Springs to Suwannee River State Park. The Suwannee is truly a beautiful river.  (5) The camping along this river is outstanding. Lots of sandy beaches and sandbars make great campsites. UPDATE:   We found that the last extremely high water had shifted many of the larger more beautiful sandbars ... but there are still plenty of good campsites available.

Q.    What about alligators? Aren't they dangerous?
A.   
Almost any wild animal can be dangerous. However, on the Suwannee there are not as many 'gators as you might imagine. On our first trip, I don't remember seeing more than 5 or 6 on the entire trip. Most of those were small. We saw only one big fellow.  The Suwannee 'gator is extremely shy compared to others I have seen. They want nothing to do with you. The minute they hear or see you, they are gone. The exception to this would be when the female is nesting or has young close by. I doubt you would ever encounter this on the main river. I'm confident they  nest way back up one of the small tributaries and not on the main river.  On three trips, we didn't see a single 'gator on the river. On two, I think we saw one 'gator on each trip.

Q.    Can I take a firearm along?
A.   
I know of no law that says you cannot have a firearm with you on the river. I'm confident there are none.   However, let me warn you the laws are very strict about shooting at or molesting  alligators unless you have a state "trappers" permit. Before you go plinking on the river, best you speak with a Game Warden or a Forest Ranger.  The best idea is (if you must)  take it with you but leave it in your pack.  Guns on the river do not exactly make friends with other river travelers. Also, believe me, you will never have a need for a gun on this river. Better idea is to leave it at home.

Q.    What about my dog. Can I take him along?
A.   
A bit lengthy explanation -- but you must use your own judgment here. Personally I don't believe it would be a problem. I have taken my dog along with me several times when I was solo, and have seen others with their dogs. I've heard of no one having had a problem on the river and I have not.   If you were speaking of the swamp where 'gators are everywhere, I would say
absolutely not. However, I don't recommend that your dog is allowed in the water when you camp.  (You know ... "an once of prevention" ...)
  When paddling, there is always the chance you might encounter an alligator ( it probably will be under 6 ft. if you do)  You do not need to fear it on the river, it will be gone the instant it sees you.  If your dog is one of those who thinks he's a Bengal Tiger and is going to protect you, you run the chance of the dog either jumping overboard to go after the gator,  -- or --as others have put it, "if it's a large dog, it could even cause you to upset the canoe." Either case, if the dog gets in the water with the 'gator, it will be killed for certain.  I said, in my book I only saw 5 or 6 on the whole 213 miles. I'm sure there were more that we didn't see. When in doubt, always play it safe.  I would like to point out here ... it is a well known and documented fact that "dog" is the number one favorite meal of an alligator. They will travel miles to get to it. In the Okefenokee we saw hundreds ... on the river we saw very few.  As I said, play it safe and use a little common sense and you should not have a problem. If you plan on taking your dog, take all precautions and restrain him so that it can't jump overboard, just in case.  There are those that will tell you --- "don't take a dog!" This is good advice. But, as I said in the beginning, I have seen several paddlers with their dogs ...  I also have taken mine several times with no problems.  Use your own judgment,  Use common sense, and you decide what's best for you and your dog.

Q.    Why is the river water so black?
A.   
The Suwannee River begins as the waters of the Okefenokee Swamp.  It is not actually black. The water comes out of the swamp where it has become saturated with the tannins from billions of leaves, roots and bark and is actually more the color of a weak cup of coffee.

Q.    What about other wild life? Are they a problem of any kind?
A.  
  Yes... and No!  A threat of any kind ... No!   But there are 'coons and other 'night critters' that will get into your supplies if you leave anything out. (Like mice)  We took the normal precautions  while on the river and we had zero problems with any wildlife ...  on the river. We did in the Okefenokee campgrounds.  See my "critter proof" snack container with a complete explanation how to make it in the book.

Q.    I hear the river has Rapids?   Is this true? Are they dangerous?
A.   
Yes! Yes! and Yes!  They are called "Big Shoals" and are roughly 5 miles above the city of White Springs.  Like anything else, they are no problem for one who uses common sense and plays it safe. Yes, they are Rapids. At high water -- they are the largest whitewater in Florida. But there is an extremely nice portage around them that presents no problem.   Dangerous?  You bet! That is, "IF" you are an inexperienced canoer, and ...  IF ... you are foolish enough to try to run them with a fully loaded canoe.   Experienced canoers and kayakers may run them several dozen times a day for the thrill of the ride. However, NEVER in a loaded canoe.  It all depends on the water level. There are times of the year that you can almost walk across them when the river is very low, (click this to see that)  and other times when the river is high, they are a Class II   Sometimes III -   Whitewater... meaning they are thundering downstream like a runaway freight. Get out and scout them before you decide to do anything. At low water, it may sometimes be possible to "line" your canoe down them if you are careful.(Far Right side only)  Lots of info on these rapids and the area, in the book, along with pictures. Also the video shows and covers the rapids extremely well. Also -
At low water - "Little Shoals" immediately above the Hwy 41 bridge at White Springs can be quite nasty.  Lots of hidden rocks, etc. narrow chutes, and slippery edges when trying to line down them. As above, get out and scout them before deciding your path.

Q.    If I were to bring my small outboard, could I get down the rapids?
A.   
My guess would be that you would be leaving what's left of your boat there forever.  High or low water. Just last year, there was an incident in the papers about a older couple who didn't know about the rapids, and didn't bother to ask anyone before going on the river for the first time. (Not too swift!) They put their large pontoon boat in at Cone Bridge planning to take a cruise down river. Before they knew what was happening, they were caught in the fast current of the rapids and couldn't get out. They went over the first ledge and became lodged there. They were extremely lucky they were not killed or seriously injured. They were stuck there for some time before being rescued by some canoers. Luckily the river was receding and a couple days later he was able to recover his heavily damaged pontoon boat from the rocks. I don't think he will try it again.
(Click here to see photo of that.)

Q.    Are there any more rapids on this river?
A.   
Yes, but they are nothing like the one at "Big Shoals."
As mentioned above, There are several just above and below White Springs and  another one below Mayo, but these are very small insignificant ones at high water. At very low water (White Springs reference water level of 51.0 or less) they are shallow enough that they can be devastating to the bottom of your craft if you are not extremely careful.  These are called "Little Shoals" and are about 300 yards upstream from the trestle at Hwy 41 bridge.  At high water, (54.0 and up) you will experience fast water and rippling on the surface but that's about it. At low water (51.0 and under)  you should pull out and scout these rapids. They will fool you. I know several good canoers that have dumped in them -
myself included and two experienced kayakers.  The physical danger is not high.  But - the loss of equipment and damage to camcorders, cameras, etc. if not in dry bags could be substantial.  (My $900.00 Nikon was a total loss.)  Don't take unnecessary chances, "read" them before you go into the chutes. (I hung tilted into the current, on a huge unseen  submerged rock causing me to swamp) Be warned!

Q.    When is the best time to plan a trip down the Suwannee?
A.   
ANYTIME! As long as there is at least 51.7 water level. This river is far enough south that when the folks up north have snow up to their ____s,  it is just right here.  The only time I personally keep off the river is in the extreme heat of the summer. At my age, I prefer to 'enjoy' the trip, not suffer through it. When it becomes too hot to enjoy, I wait and plan for later when it cools down. But back to the question. The best times, (in my opinion) are early spring and late fall.  Water levels are slightly above average, and the insects are almost non-existent. The air temp is just right for paddling. All you need is a light sweater and light windbreaker and in many cases, not even that. UPDATE: 11/12/98  We just returned from another run and had 32 one night and 36 another.   It was not a problem as we were quite comfortable... and daytime temp was absolutely perfect paddling weather.

Q.    What in your opinion is the most beautiful part of the river?
A.   
Without a doubt,  the most beautiful part is the stretch from White Springs down to Suwannee River State Park.  It is pristine and absolutely wonderful and good campsites scattered here and there.

Q.    How would I get to that part of the river?
A.    
I would put in beside the Hwy 41 bridge in White Springs. There is a nice ramp there and a campground right beside it. Though that site is 'picnic only' and  overnight camping is not allowed.  I would plan on spending two nights on those great sandbars, maybe three, and would pull out at Suwannee River State park. All this info as well as the phone numbers of the State Park and much more is in my book.

Q.     I don't have a canoe.  Is there a place close by where I could rent one?
A.   
Yes.  There are several, real close.  They will also drop you off wherever you wish to be put in and pick you up when you come out. That way, you can leave your vehicle with the Outfitter so you don't have to worry about leaving it in an unsecured area. They will transport you to your 'put-in', and pick you up at your pullout. For Canoe Outpost -- (David Pharr) --  Call 1-800-428-4147 for info on renting a canoe or river info... etc.  They just started renting kayaks. Also -- American Adventure Outfitters in White Springs --(Wendall Hannum) - Their number is 1-800-624-8081 (local # is 904-397-1309)

Q.     Who are the Suwannee River outfitters? And how and where can I find them?
A.   
As I stated, there are several  in that area. You can check the phone directory - or -  listed in the back of my book is the name, address, and the phone numbers of almost all of them. 

Q.    What about camping equipment? Do they supply that also?
A.    
Some are full outfitters. Others are not. It's best to call and ask. Wal-Mart just built a "Super Store" less than 5 miles from the Canoe Outpost, if you need something for your trip.

Q.    What about commercial campgrounds?
A.   
There are some that are superb. That is also covered in the book, along with their description and phone numbers.  They are also shown in the 48 minute video of paddling the swamp and river.

Q.    Do cell phones work on the river?
A.   
Yes and no!  On our original trip we took one in case of an emergency and used it one evening to check in with our wives. It worked just fine. (We were camped high up in the campsite at the Big Shoals.) UPDATE:  On other trips we experienced difficulty... transmission breaking up at one place and no signal at all near the Suwannee River State Park. Both were from the canoe. It probably would have worked if I had been up high on the river bank. (Maybe)

Q.    How many miles do you recommend one paddles a day?
A.   
Each person has their own ideas about this. They usually move at their own speed. In our case, we were letting the river do most of the work and we were also putting down rather early in the day. We generally get on the water by 8:30 AM.   (usually) and put down for the evening a little bit early... around 3:30 - 4:30 PM .  I believe our "average" was roughly 14-15 miles a day. (You must also remember that we make a lot of stretch stops and a lunch break) If you want to push yourself, you could probably do 17-20. But then you are making work out of the trip and it is less enjoyable.   Why do that?  Covered in the book.

Q.    Can I expect to see much wildlife?
A.   
Yes. On our trips we would have seen a lot more if we had been quieter. How much wildlife one sees is directly related to the amount of noise one makes. If you are continually 'Yakin' and banging your canoe with your paddle, don't expect to see any. If you are extremely quiet, (especially in the early morning) you will more than likely see plenty. Lots of deer, coons, fox, and an occasional otter and maybe an alligator. Otters are there but not many and not easily spotted. The river also has lots of birds, including egrets, Ibis (lots) and herons, (mostly blue.) You will see many varieties of hawks,  lots of kingfishers, and an occasional osprey. Also there are lots of owls. Several  sections on incidents with owls in my book. If you are lucky, occasionally you will see a swallowtailed kite or an eagle, and Cedar Waxwings.

Q.    What about facilities in the White Springs area?
A.   
White Springs is a very small laid back little town. However, there is a historical Hotel right in the middle of town that has an excellent restaurant and though I have never stayed there, my guess is that they would be very reasonable and squeaky clean. I have been inside and eaten in the restaurant quite some time ago.  In my opinion, it would be a very nice place to stay. The food certainly was excellent.   There is an excellent ramp at the Hwy. 41 bridge just north of town.  For those coming down river and needing supplies, there is a store here up the road from the ramp -- toward town 3/8th of a mile. They have just about anything you might need, including ice. They recently started making humongous hamburgers that are fit for a King. Meat is almost 3/4 inch thick. When there I always stop for one.  They are absolutely superb -- and reasonable.

Q.    I've heard there are lots of springs around the river. Is this true?
A.   
Yes, there are some 60  (or more) springs emptying into the Suwannee.  However, there are many that have no name.  Generally these are very small ones. Those of any size do have names... though some springs have more than one name. Seems many years ago some locals called them one name and others called it something else. This lead to confusion on some.  I have most of the major springs listed in my book with the official names (from the Suwannee River Water Management District) and GPS numbers listed with the spring so it can be easily identified if you own a GPS. There is also a separate map of the river showing the location of the over 40 major springs.

Q.    Does the state have a "Canoe Trail" on the Suwannee?
A.   
Yes.  The upper river canoe trail begins at the Hwy 6 bridge ( 6 runs from Jasper to Hwy 441) and ends at the Suwannee River State Park   That info and park description and phone number is in my book. The lower Suwannee canoe trail begins at the Suwannee River State Park and ends in Branford.

Q.    Are there any other problems I need to know about other than the rapids?
A.   
Yes.  Pay close attention to this!  You DO NOT want to be on the river between Branford and the Santa Fe River on a week end.  The powerboats and jet skis in that area on a weekend are unbelievable.  And ...  they have no regard for a canoer whatsoever. We were pre-warned and witnessed it safely from our campsite. Believe me.... you don't want to try it.  More info on this in the book. I just recently have begun lobbying Tallahassee for tighter restrictions on jetskis.  UPDATE --  Partially successful.  Now tighter requirements on underage operators.

Q.    Did you encounter any snakes on the river?
A.   
On the whole 213 mile original trip, we only saw one. It was a cottonmouth and was laying in a shady spot up high on the beach. Fortunately, he was spotted in time so we gave him a wide berth. We didn't bother him and he didn't bother us ... but we kept a wary eye on him and allowed him go on his way.  UPDATE: 11/12/98  On this last trip one of our group encountered a 4 foot Timber Rattler in the brush near our latrine.

Q.    What kind of scenery can I expect on this river?
A.    Beautiful! 
(Click on the photo and it will enlarge-- click "back" to return)  The below are just a few fine examples.  See the photo albums for more.

Suwannee 18a.jpg (73603 bytes)        Suwannee 6a.jpg (87117 bytes)        Suwannee 7a.jpg (95906 bytes)        Suwannee 12a.jpg (101695 bytes)        Suwannee 16a.jpg (88902 bytes)        Suwannee 24a.jpg (77559 bytes)  
           Serenity                           Interesting limestone formations                                              Unusual Tupelo trees                                    Superb campsites

All above photos sent in by Buzz Green of Georgia.

   I hope you have a great trip.  Don't forget however that the above information is only a tidbit of information.   By getting the book and video, you will have everything you need to plan and make your trip. Remember, the more information you have, the less chances you have of having problems.

Note:
If you will go to the Photo Albums, and the latest info on the last few trips, you will see many photos that will give you an idea what to expect from this beautiful river.  Enjoy!
                                                  Bill Logan

                                                                                                                    

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